If it’s been awhile since you’ve read a chilling, hair-raising, goose-pimply ghost story now is the perfect time to visit the Manatee County Public Library. The library has a large collection of ghost story anthologies and novels available in print and through electronic databases.
Ghost stories have been around since before the invention of the written word and every culture has a tradition of ghost stories. Great Britain has a particularly long and rich tradition from ghostly legends involving The Tower of London and other famous places, to ghost stories by writers like M.R. James, Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, and even Bram Stoker, author of “Dracula.” M.R. James and Le Fanu may not be household names, but definitely seek them out because they have written some of the finest and most eerie stories you’ll ever encounter.
A generation older than Stoker, Le Fanu was renowned in his lifetime as one of the finest writers of ghost stories. Collections such as “Great Ghost Stories,” “Classic Ghost Stories” and “The Norton Book of Ghost Stories” feature works by these authors, as well as those of other masters of the genre. “Midnight Tales,” a collection of Stoker’s short stories, traffics in the supernatural. Stories such as “The Spectre of Doom” and “The Dream in the Dead House” are fine examples of Stoker’s short fiction. Charles Dickens was also quite effective in writing about a spook or two with stories like “The Signal-man” and his immortal ghost story novella, “A Christmas Carol.”
Another fine literary collection is “Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories,” edited, illustrated, and with each story introduced by Audrey Niffenegger. Tales by Edgar Allen Poe, M.R. James, H.H. Munro (“Saki”), Ray Bradbury, Edith Wharton, Neil Gaiman and Niffenegger herself are among the authors showcased in a collection that reveals the evolution of the ghost story genre, from the 18th century to the present.
Shirley Jackson’s novel, “The Haunting of Hill House,” is one of the best ghost story novels of the 20th century. Other ghost story novels to try are “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill, “The Shining” by Stephen King and “Ghost Story” by Peter Straub.
In addition to fiction there are many nonfiction titles about “real” ghosts and hauntings in the general Dewey Decimal area of 133.1. Hans Holzer’s “Haunted America” includes ghostly tales from nearly all of the 50 states. Another Holzer book, “The Lively Ghosts of Ireland,” is a collection of tales set in the Emerald Isle. “Southern Ghosts” by Nancy Roberts, presents 13 accounts of apparitions and hauntings in the southern United States.
Children will enjoy shivery thrills reading Daniel Cohen’s “Great Ghosts,” Chris Gudgeon’s “Ghost Trackers: The Unreal World Of Ghosts, Ghost-Hunting, and The Paranormal,” and Jeff Belanger’s “Who’s Haunting the White House?: The President’s Mansion and The Ghosts Who Live There.”
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. David Breakfield is a reference librarian at the Downtown Central Library.